I found Florence at the library with Kel. Florence can best be described as a cute little bundle of life. Her height was a bit average which helped her out, as she always wore her dark locks to floor length as long as I’d known her. Any taller and her hair would get stock in doorways. She had round face, full lips and a sharp nose. Her eyes were a lighter brown than her rich dark hair, and she still had a few freckles. It was her stance though, that made her the center of attention in any room. She had held her hips just right, with enough sway to focus a man’s eyes. She also had a look for any situation, from coy smile to “watch your next step”. I was always amazed at the amount of expression she could portray on her face.
Which is how I knew she wasn’t happy. Best to make this quick.
“Hey, Florence! How’re things going.”
She shrugged and bent her head towards Kel. “Just doing a little research.”
I laughed. “A little research? That man has his nose in a book even on the road! We’re constantly stopping so he can write down his latest thoughts.”
She smiled, but it hardly touched her eyes. “What’s up?”
My expression went serious. “I found something bad. Any chance we can find a … quiet place to chat?”
Her brow furrowed. “Sure, this way.”
Once we were settled, I sat her down. “I want you to examine my head for tampering.”
“WHAT! Nan, do you think there’s black magic afoot?”
“I know there’s black magic afoot. Please, just take a look.”
Florence calmed herself, enter her focus and truly opened her senses. She started inspecting my head. I could tell by those facial expressions that she was a little shocked.
“See what I mean?”
“Nan, you’ve been ravaged! How did this happen?”
I hope my quick suprise and rush of guilt didn’t show. I must have had some remenants in there from Tulia’s rescue. “I found an enchantment over this entire town. I wanted to know what it did, so I amplified it on myself.”
“You what! Nan, that’s dangerous. And besides, you know better than to play with Black Magic!”
“It had to be done, Florence. Besides, I used a ward to protect myself. I hide my core behind a wall and allowed the enchantment to affect my emotions. After which, I restored my core. It’s a pretty neat trick, I should teach it to you.”
Her eyes were suspicious. “Yeah, sometime. So what’s the enchantment do?”
“It makes you respect authority. When I bumped the levels, it made my start to like the Lady Arylinn.” I leveled a series gaze at her after this.
She looked a bit shocked, but also amused. “Well, I guess it takes Black magic to have you see clearly.”
“Florence, this is serious! I think someone in town is using this enchantment to start an army. An army the say is destined to attack Guilfort.”
“Guilfort? Who would want… no who would need to attack Guilfort?”
“I know! I think something foul is at play. I don’t think they intend to attack Guilfort, but somewhere else. I’m not sure what’s going one, but I have my suspisions.”
“And, are your friends privy to such information?” Her eyes were twinkling. She liked to tease me when she thought I was being melodromatic.
“Of course. I think it’s related to the Path of Iron. We know they’re active in Guilfort, I can only guess they’re active here as well. Seeing the kinds of dirty tricks they pull, I think it’s only a matter of time before they control the area between Lorindale and Guilfort. I think the army they’re raising is intended for Tilith.”
“Yes. There’s no way their cheap tricks would work in Tilith with the Lady and Gramm there to prevent it. You don’t mess with magicians of that caliber. But Guilfort and Greystone? Well Guilfort lacked a defender until recently and Greystone’s been compromised.”
“You mean, Samson?”
“Yeah, this enchantment has gotten to him. If I had time, I’d stick around and try to clear him up. The problem is he doesn’t know it’s gotten him and he doesn’t trust me enough.”
She leveled me a stern look. “Nan. Honestly. I don’t think anyone would trust you in their heads.”
I had trouble hiding my suprise. “What? Why not?”
“Let’s just say you like to take uncessary risks. Risks most of us wouldn’t want affecting our minds.”
She had a point. Still, I was pretty sure with enough time I could remove the enchantment from Samson. I was also sure that with enough time she could do so. “This brings me to my point. I know I asked you for help removing the artifact, but…..”
“But, you see a conspiracy here and you need me to look into it.”
I smiled, genuinely happy. Her face told me her answer. “Yeah. I think it’s going to be big and I need someone I trust to keep an eye on things and try to fight back. I talked with the others and Linea wants to stay and help too. She’s a good person, and don’t doubt her powers because they’re pretty powerful, but I worry about her… follow through.”
“Don’t worry, Nan. I’ll do this.”
“Think you can free Samson too? He could be an asset.”
Her face soured. “Nan, Samson and I never really…. got along.”
“Yeah…. Let’s just say he didn’t know how to treat a Lady and I decided he needed to learn a lesson.”
I smiled. Good friends were hard to come by. “Thanks so much. I need to go make preparations to head out. I’ll be back to grab Kel and I’ll say goodbyes then.”
She shurgged. “Perhaps I should come with you. We can talk more about your suspicions as we shop.” She turned her head to look over at Kel. “Probably accomplish more that way.”
I gave her a wry smile. “Don’t mind him, Florence. He’s not used to being around people. Not really. His parents are gone and he had to leave his hometown because of the Path of Iron. He’d never knowingly ignore you if he knew it bothered you. He’s a good guy, just not used to traveling with others.”
She shrugged. “Why would I care what Kel does?”
Now it was my turn to level a look at her. “Florence, I know you. He’s different, exciting. Not only that, but he’s been abandoned and wandering this world alone. To top it off, he treats everyone with respect and curtesy… well maybe not goblins. Still, he’s your ideal type: Someone who doesn’t worship your every move and desparately needs your help, only he doesn’t know it yet. Of course you’re attracted to him.”
She grunted. A surprising sound from a Lady. “You sure do like to overanalyze things, Nan. Maybe one day you’ll actually be able right about something.” She shouldered past me and out the library.